Lessons in Hillside Mastery: An Asian Contemporary


For the owner of this all-new home overlooking the Santa Barbara waterfront, finding the right architect was the easy part. “I was just looking through magazines and all the homes I liked happened to be Don Pedersen homes,” says Vickie Ideta. So she rang his office.

Ideta, who’s Asian American, told Pedersen that she was a big fan of the Asian influences on the American Craftsman architectural style. “Lots of natural wood. Streamlined features. Clean lines with a natural color palette,” the list goes on, she said. “I wasn’t looking for ostentatious detail so much as fine workmanship. That’s what I think of when I think of a Craftsman home.”

Ultimately, she added, “I wanted a house that was a modern look on a Craftsman, with the views taken into consideration. And because it’s in California, I wanted an inside-outside feel.”

With Ideta’s direction and wishlist committed to memory, Pedersen started drawing. The design evolved as the drawings took shape, “going through four or five iterations,” she remembers, to get the house just right on paper to avoid costly redesigns down the line. “I wasn’t too keen on the whole change-order idea,” Ideta says.

With completed plans in hand, Pedersen recommended Ideta start interviewing contractors. During that process, Giffin & Crane jumped out above the rest. Then came the hard part.

Situated on a steep hillside with no driveway, the tough-to-reach parcel was also composed of Santa Barbara’s dreaded expansive soil, which is prone to swelling and shrinking as its water content changes throughout the seasons. As expansive soil moves, it threatens to dislodge a home from its foundation or send a crack through the ceiling.

To remedy that problem, lots of engineering stabilized the site, mostly with extra-deep foundational footings and heavy duty retaining walls. Looking back now, Ideta says, “Bruce Giffin is probably the best project manager I’ve ever met.”


Per Ideta’s desires, exterior stonework made its way inside, with matching fireplace facades (pictured, above) and an aggregate concrete floor downstairs for the pool table and guest rooms. Upstairs, there’s the master bedroom, kitchen, and great room, all with those optimized views (pictured, below). From the stonework to the custom cabinetry by Architectural Millwork, Ideta paid attention to every detail and was open to feedback from the build crew.


“One of the things I liked about working with Giffin & Crane is that they brought in some of the best people,” she remembers. “They were true craftsmen who really added to the home with their ideas.”

All said, it’s approximately 4,200 square feet, with four bedrooms and four-and-a-half baths, and everything she had hoped for, she says. “Building a house was one of those bucket list things I always wanted to do.”



(By Keith Hamm, with photos by Jim Bartsch)








After requisite formal training (undergraduate work at the University of Florida and an advanced degree from the University of Pennsylvania) and plenty of time broadening her perspective overseas (in Vicenza, Italy, and the American University of Paris), Jane Snyder now orchestrates a team of creative professionals, Mosaic Architects & Interiors. With offices in Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Napa Valley, Vail, and Boulder, they specialize in custom homes, estates, and interior design, among other services.  

Above all, Snyder maintains a deep love for the process of design and enjoys helping people feel comfortable in their homes by bringing their creative visions to life. And as you’ll see below, Snyder also has a warm place in her heart for Italian hillsides, optimism in general, and a certain man in a red suit.


G&C: What drew you to architecture early on?

Snyder: The blend between art, space, and materials.


What has been your favorite architectural field trip or vacation?

Definitely exploring the hill towns in Italy.


What is your favorite public building in Santa Barbara?

The Courthouse. I always notice something new each time I visit.


Where do you find design inspiration outside of architecture?

In the color and texture palettes in nature.


What do you most like about your job?

Working with craftsmen on custom pieces, furniture, light fixtures, details.


What do you most dislike about your job?

The long timeframe from start to move-in.


Go back in time and pick another profession.

Set designer and painter.


What is your current state of mind?

Enjoying the wisdom that comes from experience.


What is your idea of perfect happiness?

A balance of work and play.


What is your greatest fear?

That our projects won’t get built.


What is your greatest extravagance?

A daily dose of dark chocolate.


What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Hard to say.


Which talent would you most like to have?

A good singing voice.


If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

More patience.


What is your most treasured possession?

My sketchbooks.


Which living person do you most admire?

Eckhart Tolle.


Which living person do you most despise?

Let’s just say that I am a Democrat.


What do you most value in your friends?



Who is your favorite fictional character?

Santa Claus.


Who are your heroes in real life?



On what occasion do you lie?

I try to speak my truth with gentle words.


What is your most marked characteristic?

My optimism.


What word or phase do you most overuse?



What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Building a fun, multitalented design firm in five locations.



(By Keith Hamm, with photo by Jim Bartsch)


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